Holland America Line's Volendam is returning to cruise service after a nearly six-month gig housing Ukrainian refugees who fled the war in Ukraine.
The city of Rotterdam and the Netherlands government began chartering the ship in April to temporarily house refugees. Docked in Rotterdam, the charter was part of a larger commitment to house 50,000 Ukrainians.
The line added crew who speak Ukrainian, children's play areas on the deck and converted the entertainment stage into a creative learning area to accommodate families on the ship, according to HAL. The Salvation Army coordinated relief and social services for the families.
"There's a lot of pride on Volendam in being able to play a small part in the Dutch government's relief effort," said Francois Birarda, hotel general manager.
To thank the crew, children on the ship made a tile mosaic of the Volendam. Holland America Line plans to build a permanent display of artwork and mementos from families to remember this moment in history.
The 1,432-passenger ship is now sailing to Trieste, Italy, for a 14-day Holy Land & Ancient Kingdoms Explorer cruise calling in Croatia, Greece and Israel. The sailing is the Volendam's first full voyage since the pandemic began.